Author: Robert Testerman

Rob Testerman, PMP, MCTS, CSM, is a Program Manager at Edwards Performance Solutions supporting federal and commercial customers. Rob has worked with Microsoft Project since the 2003 version. He combines technical expertise with business knowledge to develop and conduct training solutions, implement process improvement, earn new business and boost productivity. He has experience implementing CMMI SVC at program level, contributing to successful ML3 appraisal. Contact Rob at or through the Edwards Performance Solutions website.

Boost Project Planning with Your Big, Monster Piece of Paper

To enhance project planning, my company established a process called the “Big Monster Piece of Paper” or BMPP for short. The BMPP method is a structured, top-down brainstorming approach to develop a detailed project work plan. Inputs The BMPP inputs include all project scope documentation available, such as: Contractual data (statement of work, notes, requirements, etc.); The proposal (all volumes technical-, management- and cost-related); The proposal schedule, negotiation notes, reports and requirements/design documentation; and Other inputs, such as the technical knowledge of the project team, project manager and subject matter experts. Tools, Ingredients and the Environment Here are the supplies you need: A large work area; A massive piece of paper such as a 36-inch roll or smaller sheets taped together or a large whiteboard; Sticky-notes in multiple colors and sizes, felt tip markers and tape; and A large, empty wall space — ideally in a location where the project team can meet and work without distractions (such as a planning or “war” room). The PM Role The project manager has several functions in this process. He or she will act as a facilitator/coach to get the ball rolling. That person will keep the ball rolling by invoking discussion, looking out for scope creep, and stopping the session when all the juice is squeezed out. The PM should listen actively and refrain from judgements. PMs should also challenge the team by asking probing and leading questions. The Advantages of BMPP BMPP is advantageous because it pushes the team to consider the whole picture — especially possible when it’s viewing a large wall covered with sticky notes as opposed to hovering over a computer screen. This approach lets the team change the task order as well as insert or remove activities. The group builds the work breakdown structure (WBS) together and builds out the resource requirements and identifies resource conflicts up front. Risks are identified and methods for avoiding, managing or mitigating them evolve as the project is detailed. Even before the project has begun, the team will become a more cohesive unit through integration and communication. Once the process is finished, the PM will already have buy-in because stakeholders, team members and subject experts have actively participated in project development. The BMPP Process The BMPP process starts by “marking” your territory — securing the space to be used to build the project). The team identifies the deliverables, lists out recurring tasks and records high-level summary tasks. Tasks are continually built down to the lowest level, identifying relationships between tasks by drawing lines on the paper to connect tasks. Next, the team marks the milestones with a diamond shape. For detail tasks, all pertinent information is listed on the sticky note (start date, duration, amount of work, resource assignments, basis of estimate, assumptions, dependencies). Once you complete this process, review the outcome with the project team for input and feedback, and do the same with management and other stakeholders. At this point, the BMPP process is complete and the PM is ready to use Microsoft Project for scheduling. Schedule planning often fails when the team isn’t involved. Teamwork and buy-in is paramount to planning a successful project schedule. Don’t get too wrapped up in technology too soon. Sometimes the manual method is the best method. Whether it’s with the customer or client, leadership, project team or other stakeholders, communication is the most important function of the project manager. Read more in the Edwards Performance Solutions whitepaper: “BMPP and Microsoft Project to Conquer Planning and Scheduling,” available with registration here: Do you have your planning approaches? Share your best ideas with the MPUG community in comments below.